Sunday, March 15, 2015

Snapshots of the Soul


 

Hello out there! Its been a while since I last checked in but don't you fret. I'm bringing you news of celebration from the heart of the right for all American citizens to vote; Selma. Last weekend, I was able to travel down to Selma, AL with Pastor Peter and the Wesley House. Before this trip, I wasn't familiar with that organization but let me first say this, Ms. Becky, the house mother at the Wesley House, is a beautiful soul. I am so thankful to have been able to meet her and allow her spirit to minister to me. I was also glad to meet Pastor Peter who was like meeting a familiar friend that was always there but didn't have a name or face...
Well, enough of that! This journey with this amazing group of people could not be more perfect. This trip was called "Snapshots of the Soul" and with good reason. We were asked to think long and hard about where we were individually and as a people. We were asked what bridges were we crossing and what is holding us back.
 
For two days, we were totally submersed in a historical walk back in time. We visited the home site of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as well as Bethel Baptist Church which served as the headquarters to many movements within the civil rights era. As moving as this was, the next site upped the "anty" on emotional disarray. The bombing of 16th Baptist Church really forced America to open its eyes and see the cruelty carried out on its citizens. From there, we saw The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This had the biggest impact on me because it highlighted things from this era that we rarely see. There were entire cities of African Americans thriving and creating better futures for their children but most importantly, the generations that follow. 

Facilitator Break
 

After these first three events, our group became a lot more vocal about the issues at hand. I felt like this was a perfect time to ask some questions and get a few reactions from folks. Because I knew that these words, sights and images would trigger everyone in different ways, it was important for me to stay neutral to allow my respondents to feel safe in their emotions. We were all introduced to the notion of having a love that forgives. I asked questions specific to this idea to see if the answers would have similarities.
 
Being involved with RAPP has given me the tools I needed to take myself out of the equation and be passionate to other peoples ideas. Meeting people where they are is big. It says that we all have the capacity to see beyond ourselves through someone else's lens. I was also glad to bring the knowledge gained from Kingian Non-violence Training. I felt like I was a part of something much greater that the older people already knew and that I was just learning.
 
 To see the places and witness the climate that  fueled civil rights is breath taking. Standing in the exact spot commemorating the 50th anniversary of the successful march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge can only be compared to winning a prize that you didn't know you were competing for.
My fellow RAPPer's made this trip unbelievable as well. I felt like we were training all year for the moment to see a piece of living history and stand together. As we crossed the bridge. there were cries of joy and jubilation through the crowd. I was glad to have shared this event with everyone present and in my heart.
 

 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Disabilities

Okay, Brice also asked me to write up a quick blog about how I felt this semester while co-oping and dealing with my physical and mental problems.  It was rough, I can easily tell you that much.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air and coughing like crazy.  (It was a lucky thing that most of the time, I managed to wake myself before I peed myself.  But when you cough that hard and can't stop it, that's what eventually happens.  Then you have to add changing the sheets to the mix.  Oh joy!)  Anyways, I'd go running for my inhaler.  Well, okay, not running.  Stumbling.  Or crawling if it was too bad.  I'd use the damned thing till I was shaking.  (It's a lovely side effect, shaking.  Eventually, you can't even hold the inhaler right anymore.)  Then you'd be up for several hours trying to get rid of it.  Can't write right, can't type right, can't highlight right… 
Boy, you want to talk about frustrating!!!  I had two attacks at work, both of which I was all over right away.  If you can nip it in the bud, they're not that bad.  But I tend to wake up with them, and that's hard because it's already established by the time you start to treat it.  Luckily, I only had to go into the hospital once and that was early on.  But then I'm running on three hours sleep at work and have trouble focusing.  It makes it really hard to cope with. 
Luckily, Siemens has a lounge chair in the bathroom, so I could clock out and take a nap if I needed one.  Unfortunately, this led to a situation where a co-worker of mine reported to my boss that I was taking a nap every day, which was untrue.  Then I had three of my bosses being all concerned about me (bleh, I hated that, cause there's nothing anyone can do about it) and the fourth (thank God) was practical.  He said, "I don't care if you DO take a nap, as long as you're not on the clock."  God bless him!!  So I combed through my time cards and showed him the dates and times I clocked out to take a nap.  He was satisfied that I wasn't doing it on the clock and that was a relief.  He saw I was taking a nap once a week or less, and I was clocking out for them.  Also, on days I took a nap, he could see I was working later to make my eight hours.  That really helped.
I think the reason I had so many problems is that I was moving more than I did when I had classes, and the stress level was much higher.  As I said in my previous blog, trips to the bathroom and cafeteria were much longer than trips to the bathroom/kitchen are here.  (I have a one bedroom apartment, y'all.  There's not a long walk in the place!!)  Plus the roughly two hundred yard walk to and from my desk in the am.  And I had to leave my desk daily to go to meetings in different parts of the building.
Also, for me anyways, working was much more stressful than school.  With school, I can schedule my classes to fit my convenience.  Work is at someone else's convenience.  I hate getting up in the AM, and I was getting up at six every day so I could leave for work by seven.  Then I was often coming home, getting food (often purchased at McDonald's at the base of the Western Hills Viaduct, as it was on my way home and it takes me a while to cook anything), and getting a bath.  Then homework for a bit (on some days, when I hadn't worked late), and off to bed at eight thirty or nine.  It was horrible for someone like me.  (I'm a natural born night owl.  As a child, and I'm talking three or four, I would go in my closet, close the door, turn on the light, and then I would read till midnight or one.  This semester, I'm taking all online classes because of my asthma, and I rarely go to bed before four or five am.  That's my body's natural circadian rhythm.  Going against it is a very stressful thing.)
Over the course of the semester, I missed twelve days and was late by ten minutes or less five times.  It was ridiculously difficult to become organized.  My workspace was nicely organized, and I busted my ass to make sure I made forty hours per week.  (I missed that twice, once over the Thanksgiving holiday when they gave us several days off (Wed, Thurs, and Fri) and once during the last week of work when my breathing took a sudden and so far unexplained turn for the worse.  Otherwise, I stayed extra to make sure I had my forty.
I have no idea how my next co-op will go, either.  Heck, at this point, I don't know if I'll HAVE a second co-op.  It really depends on how the pulmonary test goes next month, and how the doctor treats whatever is truly wrong with me.  So I'm currently in a holding pattern.  It's very frustrating to not be in control of yourself like I am.  It's intensely frustrating that I can't just go somewhere.  I have to build in extra time, and it's never a sure thing.  Some days I get to my car, hack and wheeze for fifteen minutes, and then go back to the house and cancel my appointment.  It's awful.  Brice and I are playing phone tag to discuss what options I have open to me, and we can best serve the University Community.  Hopefully, we'll get together soon and be able to work out something.  Cause this sitting at home all the time really sucks.  I have terrible cabin fever, too.  I want to go out somewhere (anywhere) so badly…

Anyways, I'm going to go ahead and call this blog done.  It's long enough, God knows!!  I wish y'all a good night.  I hope you all have had a good weekend so far, and I wish you a good Sunday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blog about Co-op and RAPP

          Hi folks.  I started this blog about three or four weeks ago, and then never got back to it.  So I'm starting all over again.  (I didn't like the way what I wrote came together, and I thought it'd be easier to rewrite it than fix it.  So I deleted what I have, and I'm starting over.)  Break is now over and we're back to school.  This is only the second week, but already I'm behind, so I'm not sure how the semester will go.  At least I'm only behind in one class, so that's a bonus.  (I'm only taking two, for reasons which you'll soon see.)  Anyways, Brice wanted me to write a sort of reflections post about my experience co-oping AND working for RAPP.  So here goes.
          I had difficulty with my co-op.  Mornings are very stressful for me, and I hate them.  It makes getting up hard, especially in the winter when the bathroom floor is soooooooo cold.  Brrrrr…  Anyways, I had a lot of challenges to overcome.  My asthma and Irritable Bowel Syndrome both act up when I'm stressed.  I missed a lot of work.  I counted it all out a few days before the end, and I'd missed 10 ½ days of work.  I missed one more day and a half at in the last week so a total of twelve days in sixteen or seventeen weeks.  My breathing was terrible.  (I also missed a lot of time in the RAPP office because of this.  I worked late on other days at Siemens to make up what I missed, so I was often in the office till six or seven after starting before eight am.  Many days I came home whipped, grabbed a bite to eat, took my meds, and went to get ready for bed.)  It was very hard for me to deal with the stress of a full time job.  I was always hurrying to get something done.  So it was a hard time for me.  It doesn't help that I was doing a lot more walking then I was used to.  (Four trips to the bathroom a day at forty to fifty yards away, plus a trip to and from the cafeteria at about a hundred yards away, plus a trip to and from the car at about two hundred yards, and that adds up to a lot of potential asthma attacks.) 
          To top things off, my stress rate went through the roof right after Thanksgiving.  We had to watch a training on Sexual Harassment in the workplace, and it brought back a whole bunch of bad memories.  I had a coworker who used to tell one of our customers that I liked him and wanted to go out with him.  He must have asked me out seventy or eighty times.  The coworker was the assistant manager, and pretty much had free rein.  The manager told me to just stay out of sight when he came into the store.  That was his solution.  So I started going in the back room.  She promptly told him I was primping for him.  I had a boyfriend, and she told the man my boyfriend abused me and I needed someone to help me get away from him.  (No signs of abuse.  No bruises, no wearing long sleeves in the summer, nada.  But he believed every word.  I really was pissed at her for throwing him at me.)  Anyways, the more stressed I got, the more mistakes I made.  Finally, they fired me, and I got away from him.  I used to have nightmares about meeting him elsewhere in the city.  I stayed away from that part of town for a LONG, LONG time.  I still don't go there unless I have to, and she no longer works in that part of town and he's probably dead.  He was older than my dad, so…
          But all the stress really has taken a toll on me.  It's a little better now.  I'm still having nightmares about the guy finding me somehow, but…  It's not like it's going to happen, but it still stresses me.  I'm to the point now, with my asthma or whatever it is, that I can't walk ten feet to the bathroom without wheezing.  I was like that my last three days of work at Siemens, and I don't know how I got through. 
          And I'm still having some stress problems.  I can't go to the grocery without the help of a motorized wheelchair cart.  I can't get to my car without having to use my inhaler.  I'm having severe cabin fever from staying in so much.  I've been depressed.  I feel like there's nothing I can do for RAPP in this state, which is not true at all.  There are still things I can do.  I'm doing one of them right now.  I also have several sets of papers to transcribe for RAPP XXX, and I told Brice we need to sit down and discuss that.  (Someday we'll be free at the same time to discuss what my options are.  I hope, lol.  We've been playing phone tag for a few days now.)  But I need to get to feeling better, and my doctor needs the test from the hospital on the fourth.  So until then, I'll be working from home.
          It was interesting how different my two jobs were.  And how alike they became…  I was supposed to be a programmer for Siemens.  Unfortunately, they found out how anal retentive I am about things being exactly right.  So they set me on a new project.  I had to edit and screenshot the user manual for the software we were working on.  Out of the sixteen or seventeen weeks, I only coded for four of them, tops.  And what I was doing for RAPP was writing blogs, reading the book, and transcribing things for RAPP XXX.  So they ended up being similar.  It was hard for me to keep going in to do something that helps me not at all in my career as a programmer, but I stuck with it.  I got quite a bit of work done, but still, it took a long time and I had almost no time for programming.  I learned a new structure, and that's the only programming thing I learned.  Oh, and I got a small bit of experience using the Google Web Toolkit.  That's all the programming I learned at Siemens.  It's frustrating.  On the one hand, I knew it needed to be done and I was the best person for the job.  On the other hand, it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing.
          On the other hand, I've learned a lot about facilitation from Brice and from The Art of Effective Facilitation.  So I guess it's all good there.  Now it's getting the practice needed to really become a good facilitator.  I really wish we could reserve a room somewhere on the edges of campus for RAPPORT meetings.  I could get there more easily if we could.  I have a handicap placard, so I can park on campus.  But the places I can park are all far away from the student lounge in Steger, so I'm not in the best of shape when it comes to that.  Maybe this test will tell what's wrong with me before too much longer, and I can then start some kind of therapy to fix it.  That'd be nice. 
          I'm going to go ahead and post this now, and then I'll get around to the other one later.  Y'all have a good night, and I wish you the best of luck.  I'll try and get the other blog done soon, so you'll have something else to read besides this, even though it's long!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Starting off the New Year from the Foundation: Chapter 1 The Art of Effective Facilitation

Even though this is the first chapter to the book, I think that reading it at the beginning of the New Year is a great time to explore the foundations of social justice and what our work with RAPP really stems from. Social Justice is a term that is often mistaken under other names; people use it interchangeably with terms such as diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism. The Art of Effective Facilitation defines social justice in the context of higher education currently as recognizing and ridding this system of its institutionalized privilege and discrimination.  Though the authors do add to this definition later in the chapter, I think that it is imperative to point out another definition that is simply in the root of the term. We are talking about social justice, so one must distinguish that social justice is also aims to teach and heal issues of equity, diversity, prejudice, and discrimination at the social level not just the institutional level.
One of the reasons why I think my definition includes this at its core is something that I learned from this chapter which is the evolution of social justice to grow to what we know it as today. It started as simply admitting non-white schools into places of higher education. Those efforts moved from just the simple allowance and admittance of the students, but to the representation of these students by creating systematic policies to give equal opportunity to all students. From representation grew for support of the growing number of students of color on campuses. Support would include things places such as the African American Cultural and Research Center and monies to help fund their tuition. Lastly, in the evolution of social justice we have the assimilation of all of these cultures in with each other to create an environment conducive to learning and assuaging prejudice and stereotyping. Social justice is more than just a numbers game, it has grown to include many different multitudes to teach and change the existing ailments that can hinder (in this setting) our places of higher education from being multicultural environments.
            In some ways, each of these efforts have fallen short. In other words, I mean that even though social justice has evolved. This applies to my personal experience with the RAPP program, especially as a facilitator, because in the group and in our workshops we really touch on every aspect of the evolution of social justice. From the modules we teach and the testimonies from RAPP members, I can assert that we still have a long ways to go at the University of Cincinnati in each of those aspects from the most basic numbers game to a social prejudices and stereotyping. Although, this sounds like something to be sad about, it is also motivation to continue things like RAPP and work like it on campus. The fact of the matter is: we have work to do. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Building a Framework For Social Justice Education

Building a healthy framework for social justice is more than just a notion. It takes time, dedication and understanding. This chapter begins forcing me to look at my experiences in social justice involvement. I had to consider my emotions as I was going through the activities, protest and other outings. Well, the "educators journey" can only be described as growth both personally an within the communities that you serve. That is; if you are serious about building this safe place for social justice to flourish. These grass root issues are about forcing yourself to be valuable know that the process of teaching others will be the plot form which you are taught.

Looking at my experiences as a facilitator, I see a few of my major flaws in my thinking and reaction that can only be addressed by really submerging myself into the core components that govern social justice education. Before, I was a participant. I could just listen or ignore other people's opinion. I was more concerned with others hearing what I had to say and changing their opinions to mirror mine. it never really occurred to me that their narrative reflected who they were and where they stood. Now, I have to listen. I have to be impartial and I have to genuinely care about what is being said and in what context is it said. I use my own education and my own experiences to be transparent and open enough that other feel like they can learn in a safe environment.

Before a conversation can occur; everyone must be on the same page (i.e define key terms in Social Justice). Some may say that this is a given but this one of the most important things we are fighting for and what concepts we are fighting against.

There are three types of oppression:

  1. Institutional: Social institutions such as education, politics, media,economy, healthcare, religion, family etc.
  2. Cultural: Societal norms, values, icons, ideologies, aesthetics, lore, jokes, music pop culture and shared beliefs.
  3. Individual: Personal beliefs, behaviors and interpersonal interactions.

Without this knowledge; it is hard to gage if the conversation is progressing successfully or are tensions rising.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

LATELY...

It has been entirely too long since I have blogged. Lately, there has been an overwhelming number of police related violence towards people of color. At our university, there has been many people coming together to fight against this. The group UC Students Against Injustice along with other students are working together as a catalyst of change. So far, there has been a die in, where people lay on the ground with signs and don't speak, and trips to local demonstrations. I am so proud to be a bearcat. Although there are many, many skeptics and naysayers, this is the beginning of a revolution.

Photo Cred: Long Nguyen


Cincinnati, along with other urban cities, has been ground zero for heinous acts of police brutality. We, as a city, are responding. Aside from public demonstration, the Peasley Center hosted a Teach-In. This was intense and had the feel of a RAPPORT meeting only amplified. This was my first Teach-In ever and I feel connected. It was like being plugged into a new system. Each person came from their own world with their own understanding of the system. World-view: POWERFUL. The fact that we all brought a piece of our world here for the same reason is enough to cause chills. 

So, the question is this: WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX A BROKEN SYSTEM?

The first thing is to stay engaged. Social change is in our reach but we have to first engage in grass-root discussions to know what is being done and what can be done.

1) Service-Work with grass-root organizations to meet the basic needs of others and yourself.
2)Activism- Force others to see you and why your issues matter.
3)Community/Education- Involve the people who are effected the most. Educate everyone of the laws but also listen to what the people want and need. Make information available for everyone.
4) Advocacy- Bring together every person and every world view to create one voice to empower the powerless.
5)Public Policy-Realize that all policies come from people standing up for their beliefs.

We can do this. My challenge to you is this: Challenge the mythical norms and see beyond the surface. If you feel that an injustice is being done, speak out and if you don't see the problem; look again.

Well that's my rant for today. Stay connected

-Ali
  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Training and Supporting Peer Facilitators

Chapter 12

Okay, Chapter twelve was pretty interesting. It talks about training and supporting peer leaders and facilitators. I didn't realize that so much usually goes into it. We've had minimal training here, and I think we've done a good job with it. The readings have been most of it. And then we're all supposed to blog two things we've learned from the readings. I generally blog most of what I've learned, with a summary. (I think that's because I'm generally a talkative person.) I can also consider my RAPP intensive as training, in a way. I don't remember everything from it, but I do remember some of it, and the mainstays. I remember the model we talked about, unconscious and conscious on one axis and individual, institutionalized, and societal/cultural on the other axis. I remember some of the rules, most importantly, no one's opinion has no value. Even the dominant narrative has value, because that is some people's lived experience.

I also wanted to talk about the feelings I feel about not being up to the challenge, as a white person. In the book, one of the things I really identified with was a student quote that said,

"The biggest challenges I faced in becoming a facilitator of social justice conversations as an undergraduate student were largely internal. I experienced a lack of confidence as a result of my own unrealistic interpretations of who I believed was qualified to facilitate. Due to the social privileges I experienced because of my identity, I felt I was unqualified for the role."

This was definitely something I thought about. I know I'm an extremely open minded person. I accept pretty much everyone as they are. But I wasn't sure I had the right perspective to facilitate social justice education with my dominant worldview. My antecedents aren't nearly as open minded. Both my grandparents on my dad's side and my dad himself were VERY prejudiced against black people. I don't understand their beliefs, and they didn't understand mine. I remember coming home from day camp at the age of four, confused as hell about why dark skin made a difference. (There was one little black girl in the group, and nobody wanted to partner her. I did, and enjoyed myself. She was funny. But we were both outcasts for that week. We had fun, but we were "outsiders" to the rest of the group.) My mom tried to explain that people fear what they don't understand, and she tried to explain to me why it makes a difference for some people. I've never understood it, and I don't now. After all, we're all human, so who cares what color a person is, or where they come from or what language they speak. Really, it's NOT that big of a deal. So why do people make such a big deal of it? (That's a theoretical question, because you probably understand it as much as I do.) I work with people from India and GB/England and Germany and the USA. All of those people are valuable to my team, and I know what value they have. Why on earth does it matter which part of the planet they were born in??? WHY? (Another rhetorical question.) But because I'm not marginalized in my racial identity, I was uncertain I had the skills to facilitate for social justice. (The weird thing is that several of my Big Eight are marginalized identities. Gender and Ability are the biggest ones, but I'm also marginalized in Socio-Economic Class. I think the rest of them are all dominant. And I have been discriminated against. Sometimes, even, here at UC. It was a memorable event for Brice and myself when, in a small group for our class, one of the men looked at me disparagingly and said, "So how did YOU get into IT?" (I don't think he liked it that I laughed at his prejudice, but I thought it was funny that he was so ignorant.) I did answer the question, and Brice and I were just amazed that he thought that was acceptable. Even with several occasions of being discriminated against, I still wonder if I'm "acceptable" as a facilitator for social justice education. So that really struck a chord with me.

It was interesting to see how much training some of the facilitators got. It seems that the book recommends substantial one on one training and support, and group support. We really don't get that here. I'm wondering if I really need to work on my skills in a group of facilitators. Maybe Brice, Ali, Tristen, and myself could get together with the peer leaders (Jacob, Shawnee, and Bridge) and do some facilitation practice with feedback coming on how we did facilitating and what we need to work on most in order to improve. It's a small group, but Tristen has plenty of experience, and Ali and I don't. Or, rather, I don't. He's been doing things with Brice during the week that I've not been able to do because of working. So I guess I'm the only one without a lot of experience. I want to do some work on this over the break, if I can, and see if that helps me become more... Confident, I guess. I need practice to really feel that I know what I'm doing, and two meetings really don’t do it. So we'll see how it all works out.

I think Brice has done a pretty good job with us though. It's hard for him since I'm co-oping cause I can't come in to the office when he's here, so we don't get much time together. It makes it hard for him to develop me and support me properly. I think things will go much better next semester when I'm in class and can be in the office more.